Over 100 years and seven owners, the apple trees of Rancho Arnaz in the Ojai Valley have provided locals with freshly squeezed juice and an assortment of varietals, from the unique White Winter Pearmain to the common Red Delicious.
And as in years past, apple enthusiasts will descend upon the ranch through October, picking the fruit themselves or taking prepicked.
Most types of apple trees prefer cold winter evenings below 40 degrees--not usual to Ventura County. Rancho Arnaz is located in a niche where such temperatures are common.
"We're in an ideal location in between canyons; it's the coldest area in Ventura County," said Bruce Lee, manager of Rancho Arnaz.
Lee said the average productive life span of an apple tree is 85 years.
"Our oldest tree dates back to 1906, which is just about at its end," he said.
Rancho Arnaz grows a variety of apples, including the tart Granny Smiths, Wine Saps and Jonathans. Sweet varieties include the Red and Golden Delicious.
Also grown on the 13-acre ranch is the White Winter Pearmain, a green, semi-sweet apple not found at the local grocer.
Lee said Pearmain trees can only be purchased from "antique nurseries" and are an uncommon variety to Ventura County.
One variety that's fairly new to the U.S. market is the Fuji, Lee said. Grown at the ranch, the red semi-tart apple, native to Japan "is one of the nicest apples anywhere because it holds up well and it's firm, real tasty too," he said.
During the two-month harvest season, visitors from afar come to Rancho Arnaz to pick their own apples.
"We furnish boxes and bags to people and just send them out to the orchard to pick their own," Lee said, "and when they're done their load is weighed."
Prepicked apples can also be purchased by the pound, bushel or singly.
Two types of apple juice--fresh squeezed and pasteurized--are produced at Rancho Arnaz with its own antique water-powered press.
"It's from the 1920s and squeezes 10 bushels per pressing," Lee said, "and each bushel is about 40 pounds."
After whole, washed apples are pressed, the juice and pulp are filtered through cheesecloth.
"The juice goes into a holding tank and from there we bottle it into plastic containers," said Lee.
Lee explained that during the pasteurizing process, fresh squeezed apple juice is heated to 170 degrees, "killing all the yeast so it won't ferment; it's a natural way of preserving the juice."
Rancho Arnaz is located at 9504 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura. Open year round, during the non-harvest season the ranch's market offers juice, apple butter, assorted nuts, olives and natural jerky. Call 649-2776.